A standing ornamental windmill, planter boxes and peonies are all the only traces that remain of my grandparents at the cute little house on a hill in Missouri Valley, Iowa. Their home, re-sided and shingled to modernize for resale after my Grandmother passed, has had a facelift. Many years we drove from Arkansas up to visit them on the long Memorial Day weekend. I can remember the white 5-gallon buckets filled with water placed in the trunk of their old brown Cadillac. Grandma and my mother would carefully cut roses and peonies from the gardens around the house and place in the water-filled buckets. We’d travel to several graveyards where grandma and grandpa would get out and place flowers by the headstones.
Whatever happened to that ritual? The significance of placing flowers on a grave was something I didn’t quite grasp as a child. Time has moved swiftly, and with it, a change in our behaviors as a people, a society. Our connectedness and communications, once like a relay of batons passed from one generation to the next…is it now just a memory? Tonight, as I went through the first floor of the house closing windows, it was the missing sound of Katie’s clicking toenails on the foyer floor that struck a pang of sadness in my heart. She was our family dog that we had to put down in October of last year. I couldn’t help but contrast the weight of these memories as I walked upstairs.
My children are all tucked away in their beds; my wife is sending an email to siblings, Clara ~ our cat is lying at the foot of the bed near my feet…the plants in ceramic pots exhibiting their will to live on the bathroom counter. These are the images and thoughts that fold around my soul as I wind down for the evening and ready myself for another week. These weeks of work and study, meals, and routines usher my soul away from the emotional and thrust me into logistics mode. My personal struggle is to daily find that balance where I consciously savor all things precious, waste no time on the frivolous, and focus on areas of internal weaknesses that need strengthened.
This weekend we watched “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” with Sandra Bullock. It got me thinking about all those who lost loved ones on 9/11. I also thought about those who across time have lost connections because of prejudice and hatred; been separated from family and all they know. As a society, are we making choices, or are the choices making us? Technology is influencing so many aspects of our daily lives. Like the boiled frog syndrome, will we someday “wake up” and say, “I didn’t choose this kind of life!” Will we regret that we allowed a bright shiny object syndrome to hypnotize us away from purposeful thinking about the small choices that are slowly making big changes to the quality of our lives?
While the windmills, planter boxes, and oak trees planted long ago stand to testify of our existence…what traces will we leave behind that have meaning or value to those who follow? Are we shaping a generation that cares? Does it matter? I would have to have some help to find my grandparents graves, and my dog Katie…her ashes may have joined dust that blows in the wind…but for now at least, I am that carrier, that vessel who holds memories of yesteryear.
I am grateful to all people and creatures who once shared their passions and affection with me. It is stories like the one of Marina Keegan who died in a car accident on Saturday that compelled me to share these thoughts with you today. RIP Marina http://t.co/M6rVzAdd I am grateful to JonahLupton ( @JonahLupton ) for tweeting a link to the story!